Monday, March 22, 2010

What If.

Children are a miracle and a gift. This boring old worn out platitude doesn’t really resonate with me. Then I start thinking about the series of insane coincidences and miracles it has taken to get to this point. My apologies for the dime store amateur philosophizing here, but it boggles my mind to step back and consider just how unlikely my good fortune and wonderful life really is.

What if I had chosen to go to Cornell in New York instead of UT in Austin? Would I have ever met Shannon? Would the timing have been the same? What if I had taken that investment banking job in Dallas? I’m sure I would be wealthier, but at what cost?

What if my dad had never relocated from Alabama to Houston in the 1980’s? Where would I have ended up, and who would my friends have been?

What if my dad had never met my mom in the first place? What if the Sieber family line was wiped out in the Civil War, and ole Absalom Sieber didn’t make it through? What if Ogg Sieber, the cave man, had a lapse of attention one fine day, and a pterodactyl swooped down and pecked him to oblivion?

There are literally millions of tiny coincidences, bits of good fortune, and strange quirks of fate that have all combined and conspired to bring my little family together. Change even the smallest detail, and our unique and precocious little Mad Dawg is not here with us. Just think of the infinite number of never-conceived children who never get their day in the sun because someone didn’t meet the right person, someone fell asleep too early one night, or some cave man became a dino-snack? Everything is always hanging by a thread, and, yet, here we are.

What are the lessons in this?

First, playing ‘what if’ has completely changed. I can wonder about job choices or what I might have studied in college, but changing any of that would just ‘poof’ away my family, and it would never be worth it.

Secondly, I would advise anyone considering time travel to reconsider. Sure, I’ve thought about travelling back in time to warn Colt McCoy not to run that speed option play against Alabama, but the risk to the space time continuum is just too great. I recall the cautionary tale of the Back to the Future movies.

Finally, some might see the hand of divine intervention while others might see a nearly infinite combination of incredibly fortunate coincidences that conspired to give us our very lives and our precious loved ones. I’m not sure what the right answer is, but I do know enough to appreciate and try to never take for granted what I have. It’s surprisingly easy when I walk in the door and hear that little voice scream “DADAA”.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The further adventures of....

This posting covers a potentially impolite topic. This is not a tale for the dinner table or the squeamish of heart. It is, however, a perfectly plausible occurrence in the grossed out world of the parent.

Although this happened almost a week ago, I can remember it like it was yesterday.

It was a dark and not very stormy night. Little Mikey was struggling against sleep, as is his way. Shannon nobly battled him with cuddles, with pacifiers, with blankets, and with songs. Nothing would work. This was one pissed off baby, and she was defeated under the relentless onslaught of toddler squirms and cries. Shannon summoned me off of the couch to take over.

Mikey greeted me with his usual, “ DA DAAAAaaa!” and held up his arms in the universal sign for "pick me up now." I should have noticed that his belly looked a little distended, like an overripe watermelon. I figured this would be a sleigh ride: a few minutes chilling on the couch and he would be sleeping like a baby. Little did I know the hell he would soon unleash.

It started with a cough. One cough became two, and two became four. We had a complete and total Cough-a-rama on our hands. Without warning, the cough changed into a sustained grunt. I could hear this perfectly because Mikey’s head was inches from mine.

Then came the deluge.

I was struck about the face and neck by a jet of projectile baby vomit. It entered the neck opening of my shirt. Yes, it was down my shirt. I shudder to recall the feeling.. A second aftershock struck, plastering the right side of my body and splattering onto the carpet.

I would like to think that I’m a mentally tough person, that in a crisis I would remain calm and move quickly. I was wrong. I was transfixed…in horror, surprise, and confusion. “What the Velcro do I do now?” A few seconds felt like an eternity until I was snapped back to reality by Mikey’s plaintive cries. I hustled into his room to start disaster recovery proceedings while Shannon went to work on the carpet. Several towels and a whole lot of gagging later, the baby was cleaned up and looking good in his diaper. Only then could I clean myself up. I was numb to the point that my gross out meter didn’t even register a blip.

Mikey must have been feeling better, because he started getting his groove on in the hall. A dancing baby clad only in a diaper can really lift one’s spirits after a crisis.

Every parent has these stories. Just ask any of our friends, who are probably weary of all the poop and bodily function stories. We parents are part of an elite fraternity. We bear the slings and arrows of outrageous toddler fortunes, from ear infections, to disgusting diapers, to sleep deprivation, to being vomited upon Exorcist-style. This is one club that I am overjoyed to be a part of, gross-outs and all.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

A Food Review: Justine's in Austin

I would like to share a food review I wrote at for Justine's, a French brasserie in east Austin. I like food, and I like writing, so Yelp competes for some of my mind share and time. Here's the review!

Justine's Review Link

We headed east on our quest for hyped and acclaimed French goodness. It was not so far east as Paris, but it was the kind of east that made us feel like we were on an adventure in a far-away land.

Our large party arrived for the early dinner seating. The little house featured expansive grounds, sparsely furnished and juxtaposed with the tiny dining room, claustrophobically furnished. In the light of day, the room was warm and airy and not yet crowded. I could feel a happy buzz in the air and in my head as a well-mixed Sidecar began to do its work.

What's not to like about classic French peasant food? French onion soup, duck leg, steak frites. Salt, butter, fat. Red wine. More salt and fat. The evening became a blur. I remember the conversation and mirth reaching a near roar as more and more people packed into the restaurant and bar. This was the place to be, and I expected to see one of those white-gloved Japanese subway attendants cramming more people through the front door.

The red wine flowed like water, aided by a generously cheap markup. Though we we're shoe-horned in to an impossibly small table, conversation was difficult above the rising din of wine-soaked bar-goers and diners. We found a way, and I remember laughing a lot. I remember being jealous of my brother's steak and and my wife's pork chop, but I had the last laugh. They neglected to order the French Onion soup, a gaudy soup that was almost too rich, but not.

I don't know how the waitstaff manages to actually service tables. The dining room is a like Bombay rush hour, and these waiters must be able to read lips to take orders. But they got it done for us with a minimum of fuss or errors.

I wouldn't say it was the best food I've ever eaten. My duck leg was perhaps a bit dry and over salted. Dishes were not complex or elegant. The whole was greater than the sum of the parts. Maybe it was the wine? Maybe it was the boisterous joyful ambience? Was it the good company? I don't know exactly, but it was good. And I'll be back.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

The Eyes of Me Premier on PBS

It sure is nice to see friends doing big things in the world. Last night, Shannon and I trekked down to the world-famous Austin City Limits studio to watch the national television broadcast of Keith Maitland and Patrick Floyd's documentary, The Eyes of Me.

First, it was just cool to be in Studio 6A. I've seen the Austin skyline set in the background of dozens of televised concerts, so I enjoyed seeing it in person. Secondly, it is so satisfying to see this film garnering national attention after the insane amount of toil, sweat, and tears that went into shooting, editing, and launching this movie.

More importantly, the Eyes of Me is actually really good. It is equal parts entertaining, touching, and enlightening. Watching these four blind teenagers navigate a year at the Texas School for the Blind helped me actually feel and gain some understanding about what it is like to live with a visual disability.

Some scenes are absolutely harrowing. It's scary as hell for me, a sighted person, to cross a bustling street like Guadalupe. Imagine stepping out into traffic with nothing but a cane to guide you as cars, trucks, and busses roar in your ears. This film beautifully captured this little piece of reality (among many others).

A 1 hour cut of the film aired last night nationwide on PBS, and there should be re-runs. I hope everyone out there takes a look.

The Eyes of Me PBS Website

Monday, March 01, 2010

Why wasn't I informed of this?! (PART 1)

After 16 months with the baby (aka Mad Dog, Mikey, or Michael), I never cease to be surprised at the new challenges and, ehem, adventures that crop up. I have to ask, why wasn't I informed of this???!! Some things that have surprised me (part I):

1. It’s not the diapers that get you. It’s the sleep.

2. That said, ever heard of rogue waves? Those are the massive, unexpectedly huge waves that suddenly crash into ocean-going ships. Even huge cruise ships suffer severe damage and risk of capsize. Sometimes a rogue diaper comes along, and it shakes me to the core. I wish I could figure out what food items cause rogue diapers, because they are so unspeakably terrible. Right now, scrambled eggs and edamame are on the watch list.

3. Babies in day care are sick so often that the well days that stand out as remarkable. I wish our pediatrician gave frequent flier miles, because we’d be getting a free toaster or stethoscope at this point.

4. Baby fevers are intense. They are hotter than adult fevers, and they last longer. On the plus side, a strategically placed feverish baby in the bed can help you with lower utility bills in the winter.

5. There’s no getting away from the booty thermometer. The other ones just don’t work right. This one is not fun for anyone involved. Disturbing the ‘well’ can activate geothermal forces, and all heck can break loose.

6. Keeping a toddler’s nose wiped is absurdly Sisyphusian. The crust is relentless. It’s like those lava flows in Hawaii that constantly harden and form more land. The flow never stops, and any attempts to wipe with Boogie Wipes are considered an act of war by the sovereign infant. It gets really bad when you see lint, dog hair, or a passing dragonfly caught and frozen into the amber-like slime.

7. Babies have a radar that unfailingly draws them toward the most dangerous or messy objects in any room. Left a pair of scissors sitting within reach? Guess who is going to find them? Half finished glass of ice water on the coffee table? Baby will be dumping it on his face in seconds. Extremely dangerous brick fireplace or wooden staircase? Those are the only places he wants to go, ever.

8. Toddlers plus downward sloping hills are a terrible combination. It’s like a runaway mine car, and the resulting crash is spectacularly sad. Babies don’t seem to understand the concept of speed and momentum. In accordance with #7, Michael is obsessed with hurtling down any hill he can find.

9. I’ve been sick more times in the last 16 months than the previous 10 years combined.

10. Shots suck. The nurse has you pin your baby down so that his cherubic thighs are laid out and ready for plunder. After 2-4 rapid-fire shots, you can see the look of shock appear as little cheeks flush to bright red. A huge intake of breath is followed the scream of a thousand banshees. His eyes are saying, “Why have you betrayed me?” At least he gets a scooby doo sticker afterward. My theory is that teenage rebelliousness and anger has its roots in deep-seated memories of fear and betrayal from those early shot appointments. Oh, and Jenny McCarthy just accused you of exposing your kid to Autism.